By Kerry Stephenson HE Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Cardinale, was "absolutely surprised"
by the removal of Fr, Herbert McCabe from the editorship of New Blackfriars, the semi-official organ of the English Province of the Dominican Order. "I knew nothing of Fr. McCabe's dismissal until I read The Times on Saturday morning," said the Delegate. "I can't understand how or why the MasterU,-.1LCI tit Cu1 Lae Dominicans (Fr. Fernades Aniceto) acted so quickly."
Archbishop Cardinale is very upset by the dismissal. So too are Fr. McCabe's associates—lay and clerical.
At the time of writing a petition seeking Fr. McCabe's reinstatement is being circulated in London, Cambridge and Oxford. Although neither the English Provincial, Fr. Ian Hislop nor Fr. McCabe is prepared to make any comment, some Dominicans admit they have "heard of the petition, but haven't seen it." Well-known Catholic writers and publishers are among the signatories.
The petition, which is being sent to the Master-General in Rome, says: "We, the undersigned, members of the Roman Catholic laity in Great Britain, want to tell you how distressed we have been to learn that you have directed that Fr. Herbert McCabe be dismissed from the editorship of New Black friars and beg you to reconsider that decision and reinstate Fr. McCabe to that post.
"SILENCED" "Fr. McCabe has made New Blackfriars into a journal of considerable intellectual standing and his editorial policy has been an example of independent judgment and scrupulous service. Fr. McCabe has always given space to those who disagreed with either his own views or those of his contributors.
"For this reason, even those of us who do not fully share all of Fr. McCabe's opinions, are deeply concerned that so just and open a man should have been dismissed for expressing in editorial comment sincerely held views which do not call into question any article of faith.
"That he should have been offered no opportunity to defend himself, that he has been silenced without argument, evidence or even attempt at explanation is an injustice that Fr. McCabe has done nothing to merit.
"We ask you to grant our petition and reinstate Fr. McCabe to the editorship of New Blackfriars and to such other of his priestly functions as have been removed." [It is understood that those functions have been suspended temporarily to allow Fr. McCabe time for a "period of reflection". These suspensions are not to be regarded as a penance, say Rome sources.] NO RETRACTION Although Archbishop Cardinale is upset by Fr. McCabe's dismissal, he is not retracting anything he said in last week's CATHOLIC HERALD. "I respect,
and indeed welcome, constructive criticism, but not the kind given to us by Fr. McCabe. The whole thing is very sad.
"Because Fr. McCabe's editorial had been made public in papers like The Times and 7"elegraph I felt it was my duty to reply. I did, however, confine my public rebuke to the Catholic press.
"Since it was published I have received letters of support from many unexpected quarters. Today freedom of speech is being claimed for everybody except those in authority.
"Although I don't agree with Fr. McCabe's editorial views I do respect the way he has behaved since."
Fr. McCabe's charge that the "Church is patently corrupt", which upset the Apostolit Delegate so much, is similar to one made in New illackfriars in August, 1965— three months be Fr. McCabe was appointed editor.
Contained in an article written by Mr. Michael Dummett, a Reader in the Philosophy of Mathematics at All Souls, Oxford, the allegation then was of a much more general nature.
Archbishop Cardinale said h. was very disappointed that before the Dominican superiors took action they had not consulted him. "I would never had contemplated Fr. McCabe's re• moval and I'm sure, had I been consulted, I could have brought a little more balance to the whole affair."
There is still meagre information about the dismissal. One possible explanation is that when the Master-General visited Britain just before Christmas he heard about the Dominicans' link with the leftwing "Slant" group and became a little perturbed.
Fr. Aniceto, showing the characteristic caution of a Spanish upbringing, did not act then, but adopted "a wait and see" policy. As Fr. Hislop noted New Blackfriars has always been "experimental and venturesome" because it is directed to a small, critical and educated readership. It has been allowed a latitude which would not be expected in a journal with a more popular appeal.
Fr. McCabe, aged 40, was educated at Manchester University and went through the normal Dominican studies at Hawkesyard and Oxford.
He has contributed to the E n g l i s h translation of Aquinas's Summa Theologiae and his best known book New Creation has run to two editions.
At the time of writing Fr. McCabe's successor had not been named, but one of the names put forward is Fr. Laurence Bright, whose views on some political questions are even more radical than those of Fr. McCabe.